Arsenal have made a late surge up the Premier League table, with the Gunners looking likely to finish second this season after excellent recent form.
The Emirates Stadium faithful will think back and rue a number of negative results earlier in the campaign, with dropped points in winnable games preventing the North London outfit from challenging Chelsea for the title.
Although the stellar form of a wealth of Arsenal’s attacking stars will be heralded as a key reason for the team’s improvements over recent months, two new faces introduced since the turn of the year have also made a telling difference.
Had Arsenal deployed the services of David Ospina and Francis Coquelin from the start of the campaign, there is every chance that the gap between themselves and Chelsea may not be as wide as it currently is.
The Colombian goalkeeper joined the English side in the summer as a back-up option, but has firmly established himself as Arsenal’s number one in recent months.
One too many mistakes from Wojciech Szczesny forced Arsene Wenger’s hand into dropping the Poland international, but the team have looked much more secure as a result.
Ospina has started 11 Premier League games this season and the Gunners have won ten of them; defeat away to North London rivals Tottenham has been the only match the South American stopper has not tasted domestic victory in so far.
The 26-year-old has kept five clean sheets along the way and has only conceded seven goals.
Szczesny by comparison only kept three clean sheets in the 17 games he played before being dropped.
As such, it will be interesting to see whether Arsenal look to sign a new goalkeeper this summer or whether Ospina is deemed as a competent enough option to fire the club back into a title chase.
Meanwhile, Coquelin has taken his opportunity with two hands, having prospered in the side since being recalled from a loan stint at Charlton.
The French midfielder looked destined to leave the Emirates Stadium this summer on a free transfer, but instead has played his way back into the manager’s plans and penned a new long-term deal.
Despite the wealth of other central midfielders at Wenger’s disposal, Coquelin now looks like an automatic starter when available, with the 23-year-old offering Arsenal the defensive shield in the centre of their midfield that has been missing in recent campaigns.
Of the games 13 games Coquelin has started, the Gunners have won 11, with only defeats against Southampton and Spurs blotting his record.
Although the likes of Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta are nearing a first-team comeback after long injury layoffs, Coquelin will surely retain his place in the team given his standout performances during the experienced pair’s absence.
Given the mistakes and soft goals that Szczesny let in earlier this term and the lack of bite in the team’s midfield before Coquelin was introduced, Arsenal could well be in a fantastic position with seven games to go had the impressive pair been given their chance sooner.